Stray dogs are a menace in Bhutan. And their number keeps growing. As many say, the country’s effort to control the dog population has been all bark but no bite.

The problem has hit such a high that now we are forced to grapple with the problem of stray and feral dogs posing danger to human lives. We still shudder with horror how an eight-year-old girl was mauled and killed by a pack of feral dogs in Genekha recently. The far-removed community is still trying to come to grips with the scale of horror that they experienced.

In the highlands, feral dogs are killing livestock animals. In Phobjikha, the famous winter home of the rare and protect black-necked cranes, conservation is increasingly becoming a huge challenge. In packs, feral dogs have been found to disturb the bird’s habitat.

Saturday’s Kuensel issue was received well by those who understand the scale of the problem. Those who did not asked whether Kuensel had nothing else in the country to write about than scrawny little dogs.

The problem of stray dogs was first recognised in the country nearly five decades ago.  Attempts like dog sterilisation or neutering have been ineffective. Officials responsible, used to being cavalier, often tell us that dogs don’t need passports to cross borders.

We don’t need hollow arguments anymore. The issue of dog problem in the country needs serious attention.

There are more than 72,000 free-roaming dogs in the country, we are told. And we have a target of achieving zero free-roaming dogs in the country by 2030. Going by the extra effort being put in, with the involvement of de-suups even, we have a reason to believe that it’s a practical target.

The Nationwide Accelerated Dog Population Management and Rabies Control Programme (NADPM and RCP) launched last year aims to achieve 100 percent sterilisation of free-roaming dogs, register, and vaccinate all pet dogs, and control feral dogs. Deputy chief veterinary officer, Karma Wangdi, said that if 100 percent sterilisation of free-roaming dogs is achieved, after seven to eight years, there would be no free-roaming dogs. The sterilisation rate today is 93 percent, which is commendable.

But we can’t rest with these small achievements. Stray and feral dog problem must not exist.